CHICAGO (WAND) - Starting February 6, the Illinois Office of Comptroller will no longer help municipalities collect fines for red-light camera tickets.

Comptroller Susana Mendoza said system is both unfair to low-income Illinoisans and the subject of a federal corruption probe.

"My office is taking decisive action in response to unethical arrangements that have come to light regarding the red-light camera industry," Comptroller Mendoza said. "As a matter of public policy, this system is clearly broken. I am exercising the moral authority to prevent state resources being used to assist a shady process that victimizes taxpayers."

News reports show red-light traffic tickets fall hardest and disproportionately on minority and low-income drivers. The $100 red-light ticket camera fines can double if they initially go unpaid, and then almost triple.

Vendors and private collection agencies are sometimes able to keep a portion of the funds the state collects on behalf of municipalities. 

If unpaid tickets result in someone's driver's license being revoked, it can lead to them losing their job.

In several cases, government officials simultaneously acted as consultants to red-light companies. They helped them get contracts with certain towns and got cuts of the money paid on every such ticket issued in those towns.

"This kind of arrangement stinks -- it's plain rotten," Mendoza said. "It exploits taxpayers and especially those who struggle to pay the fines imposed, often the working poor and communities of color. We can't continue the practice of municipal employees directly pocketing cash from contracts they arrange."

Since 2012 the General Assembly has allowed municipalities and other local governments to use the Comptroller's offset system to help collect debts, such as court fines, administrative judgments, traffic tickets, etc., generally through withholding of state income tax refunds or other state payments.

That offset system has been used to help collect child support, overpayment of benefits, and other types of debt.

Municipalities are allowed to hire private debt collectors to go after motorists who have not paid the fines.

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